Thoroughbred Makeover Diary: Fin’s Steady Improvement, Excited for New Adventures

Thoroughbred Makeover Diary: Fin’s Steady Improvement, Excited for New Adventures

The past month has been a whirlwind of summer activities, and I am surprised that we have made it through. After Fin got her new saddle, my brother got married, we started the process of drilling a well on the farm, and I went on a family vacation. Luckily, even though the time has felt limited, we have still been able to make some solid progress on Fin’s training.

I am what my family likes to call a “worry wart,” and I particularly worry about the well-being of the horses in my life … most frequently now with Fin.

In the spring while we were riding at my friend Jeff’s, I asked if he might be willing to keep her while I was gone during the summer and, lucky for Fin and I, he agreed! I asked Jeff to work on her lunging abilities, patience, and just allow her to be kept in a stall.

One thing I have been worrying about with taking her to the Thoroughbred Makeover is that she will have to be in a stall for the week. We have a run-in shed at the farm that can act as a giant stall if needed, but it’s just not the same. I did not want our Kentucky experience to be the first time she had been stalled in over a year. Much to her initial dismay, Fin was stalled right beside a feisty little Appaloosa yearling. I left her there, not being sure that her patience with him would last through the week.

I was able to fully relax on vacation knowing she was in the best hands at her summer camp, but I was so excited to pick her up when we got home. When I arrived at Jeff’s, she was just chilling like an old pro in the stall. I was so surprised. She was even sniffing at her yearling friend through the bars! She was not pushy at all when I went to take her out of the stall and calmly walked right on the trailer to go home. Everything about the week was wonderful for her, except she did manage to pull a shoe right before she went back home.

Our ever-patient farrier — Fin is unfortunately a frequent shoe thrower — was able to work us in quickly so we could get back to business.

The first rides after Fin’s summer camp experience were markedly improved from our rides before. I think the rest and quiet time away from our pesky geldings really treated her well and that relaxation was evident under saddle. 

After her hoof repair and two rides at home, it was off to visit Katherine Abrams for a lesson. When I arrived at our farm to get her, the horses were against the woods and as far as they could be from the trailer; this is usually not a positive sign when I’m trying to work with Fin as she is still a bit buddy sour. Since I didn’t want to get her worked up before hauling, I caught her favorite friend to bring him down. Once I had Midge, the rest of them followed me down the hill like ducks in a row. The boys all got put in the round pen and I caught Fin to load. I walked her up to the trailer to ask her to get on and she just stopped. Instead of getting flustered, I led her off to get a drink of water before we tackled it again. On our reapproach, she stepped up on the trailer just like she does in practice, and my mom was able to shut the door behind us. We pulled out of the farm with no drama (from her or the geldings) and got on the road.

Our journey to Katherine’s was uneventful. When we arrived, Fin stepped off calmly like she had done it a hundred times before. I’ve mentioned in the past that she is usually pretty vocal when she travels, but she was noticeably quieter this time. Her ground manners were also so much improved from what they have been in the past — I am chalking all that up to her week with Jeff and maybe a little maturity. 

Our lesson at Katherine’s was really wonderful. When I have the rare luxury of riding in a legit arena, it always surprises me the difference it makes in our ride. I think Fin feels much more confident in an enclosed space, or maybe she’s just a bit shy out in public and is on her best behavior! We have been working a lot on going forward and accepting contact at the same time. Usually, it is one or the other but Fin is starting to realize that putting them together is more comfortable as the work gets harder. We spent the lesson working on getting her more forward in the trot and some canter work. The canter is still a struggle for us, but the improvement is happening and it is much easier to work on in an enclosed space. I am so proud of the effort she put forward in our lesson and the little horse she is becoming!

Of course, we still had to make the trip back to our farm. After a good grooming, some rest in the stall, and me backing the trailer out so we could leave easier, it was time to try loading. The day could not have gone any better up to this point and I was anxious that it would all come undone when I asked her to load. The first time I walked her up to the trailer she stopped in her tracks and hollered at some horses in the field. I sensed she was getting riled up by seeing them enjoy their down time so we walked around the driveway. After a minute or so, she calmed down and we tried again. She hopped right on like a champ, and I let out all my breath I had been holding!

Our goals for the next month are to spend more time lunging and working on contact and to further develop her canter. I also plan to enter us in our first overnight show at the end of this month! That will be quite the experience for us both; I can’t wait to see how she handles the new adventure.